As a quick note, this review contains NO spoilers for the Clank Legacy campaign.
Two years ago my partner and I had started regularly playing games with another couple regularly, which led to a somewhat constant need for new games. I was particularly taken with finding new and exciting things to bring to the table and at the time of quaint, pre-COVID 2019, Legacy games were all the rage. “Legacy” games are now out of fashion, but the allure in 2019 of games that evolved and changed based on your decisions and were not 100% replayable was something that really shook up the market. Pandemic Legacy, Risk Legacy, Legacy this, Legacy that, you name it, a game was trying it. For our group, though, none of the other games really stood out.
Our group really liked deck builders and co-op (or semi-co-op) games, but two of them hated Pandemic. Then, suddenly, out of the blue, a game fell into my lap: Clank Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated. A deck builder using the Clank engine, using a Legacy system, that promised at least 10 individual games before finishing the campaign. Clank Legacy seemed like an amazing fit for our group. None of us were fans of Penny Arcade or Acquisitions Incorporated, though, so I spent quite a bit of time researching the game to see if it were something we needed to be “in the know” about or not. I also needed to casually drop hints to see if my group would be into it (the game runs around 100 dollars, so, you certainly want to be sure of these things). Turns out nope, no knowledge required, and yes, they were fairly curious, so I bit the bullet and had someone snag an early copy for me from PAX, and in October of 2019, we started our journey.
Three weeks ago, at the beginning of August 2021, we finished our campaign of Clank Legacy.
If You Don’t Behave I’m Turning this Game Around
Clank Legacy asks players (from 2-4) to adventure into the unknown in search of treasure to, ostensibly, build your branch office of Acquisitions Incorporated. Like Clank itself, players take their turns moving around the map, buying cards, fighting monsters, and collecting treasures based off of the actions available to them by the cards in their hand. Clank uses a mixture of deck building and roll and move to make both things seem far more interactive than they normally are, as your character’s physical location on the map matters just as much as the cards in your hand. Each turn, players draw 5 cards, plays all of them in any order they wish, and makes choices based on what those cards allow them to do. Meanwhile, a somewhat slow but always present threat exists in the form of the Rage Meter which, when Dragon Attacks are triggered, causes players to draw cubes from a bag that deal damage to any player whose cube is removed from the bag.
In regular Clank, this sometimes leads to some cutthroat play, as knowing who has the most Clank in the bag, as well as who has an artifact (required to score in end game) and who is above ground before dying (also required to score in end game) can lead to some tense moments as players who gambled on get in and get out strategies try to kill off more adventurous players. Clank, the basic game, can be a little mean in this regard, and even deaths caused accidentally can lead to frustrating (or funny) outcomes. Legacy, however, adds in some wrinkles to this mixture in a way that will likely determine whether your group just threw 100 dollars into a hole or not. Namely the fact that each game you play has missions (known as contracts) and specific goals to be accomplished (or not, up to you). Pursuing the various waypoints and readable sections of the game contained in the Book of Secrets is the real joy of Clank Legacy, but if your play group won’t agree to stop buying from the market in order to prevent dragon attacks or ensuring players are all able to escape to at least above ground before returning to HQ and triggering endgame, you should probably skip Clank Legacy.
I know that might seem like a severe take, but it’s an honest one. I’ve seen posts on BGG and Reddit to this effect, and every user is as baffled as I am: if you want to play a cutthroat game, just play Clank (or something else!); playing Legacy in this way is just going to ruin an experience you only get to do once. For some players, it might be odd to reconcile this, but Clank Legacy is a competitive game engine that wants you to play it as a non-competitive game, at least until that chapter’s contracts are complete. Then, well, get those points. Of course, this isn’t explicitly stated on the box, and to be honest you can play your games however you like, but we found that playing Clank Legacy with the purpose of seeing all (or as much as we could) of the Book of Secrets, and the changes it would bring to the game, was the real reason we kept coming back to it.
What do you Mean DESTROY my Game? I Paid for This!
To that end, the Legacy element of Clank Legacy involves the constant changes that you will make to your physical game. Cards will be destroyed, new ones will be fetched from your Cardporium, stickers will be applied, new paths and areas will be placed onto your board, and tokens will be punched. Legacy games are notorious for the idea that you can only experience the game “once”, in that players are constantly destroying and altering pieces of the game, sometimes at a physical level. In our case, this became a ritual where destroyed cards were bedazzled in copious stickers, as tearing them up seemed too mundane. But that very first time the game instructed us to “destroy this card”, we all froze. Legacy games ask a somewhat simple question that goes fairly against the grain of what a board game collector usually envisions themselves doing: destroying your own game. Once we got into it, though, destroying cards couldn’t come fast enough in most cases. The game was, after all, all about exploring the Book of Secrets. Any cards, tiles, stickers, tokens, whatever needed to be destroyed, punched, placed? We were on it. At the end of the campaign, our Book of Secrets was totally in tatters itself, pages falling out of the binding left and right from how much use we got out of the game. Two years of constant gaming tore that book apart, but it was all worth it.
As the campaign evolves, so too does the game itself, with new mechanics and other things going on. The base mechanics of Clank never change though, meaning that if for any reason your game sessions are interrupted (by, say, a 2+ year long and going pandemic), the game is very easy to pick back up where you left off. We found that our recent games to finish the campaign set up and progressed as if we’d never stopped playing. The best part is that the game gives you everything you need (aside from perhaps enough baggies or token organizers) to keep everything sorted. Characters even get individual deck boxes that let you track certain progress, but most importantly you keep all your colored cubes, deck, and other items you might need to play the game. We even found that we could easily include extra colored die to help us roll for certain decisions, meaning the boxes have more than enough space for what’s in the game itself.
A Penny for Your Thoughts
One of the biggest questions I had going into the game, and one someone has asked me a few times, is “How much do I need to like Penny Arcade to play this?”. Thankfully, the answer is very easy: none at all. The biggest influence PA has on the product is that Acquisitions Incorporated is their product, and the card art features Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik’s artwork. But regardless on your opinion of PA or knowledge of their AI world, what you’ll find is an often funny and compelling game that doesn’t ask for anything in return to enjoy it. There are AI characters in some of the cards, but they otherwise do very little to or for the game, meaning that any references to them won’t make much difference either way.
Out of curiosity, though, I did look in to AI itself, and found that while the liveplay RP was entertaining, knowing more about AI did nothing for me in terms of enjoying the game more. I knew who the characters on their respective cards were now, but there are actually no direct AI references in the cards in Clank Legacy’s Cardporium decks, stories, or campaign. Everything is “new”, set in the AI “world” (itself basically 5e D&D). In fact, the bigger determinant of enjoyment will likely come from the question of whether you and your gaming group like fantasy elements or not in your games. If not, well, this game is basically a lot of fantasy jokes wrapped around a fantasy adventure, so keep that in mind before you buy in.
Creating Our Legacy
The real fun of Clank Legacy, though, came from the table talk and the time spent with one another. While that does sound like “the true friends we made along the way,” I’m not being facetious. We spent a year apart from each other and this game, and when we finally were willing to resume gaming with one another after our vaccines, the biggest thing we did was crack out Clank Legacy and get back to business. We were taken aback by some of the jokes and references we had worked into our game (some bittersweet, even, such as our friend’s recently departed dog’s name), and it was almost like opening a small time capsule. Of course, most play groups likely won’t have their experiences with Clank Legacy interrupted with a global pandemic, but ours did, which made finishing the campaign feel even more special.
I am not sure if we’ll ever play another Legacy game; in fact, most games seem to have moved past Legacy as a mechanic (bringing us to whatever Oath is doing, which feels like… meta Legacy?), but Clank Legacy was, and is, something special. The great thing is that we can take it out whenever we want to play Clank itself with, seeing and revisiting our game and all the choices we made and things we did, which makes it even more enjoyable than other Legacy games which more or less ask you to throw them out when you’re done. If you have a group of 2-4 players and want something longform, Clank Legacy is a great place to look. If you’ve never tried a Legacy game before, Clank Legacy makes a great place to dip your toe into that as well, and, for us, it may even be our only Legacy game.
While Clank Legacy means a lot to me personally, it also was an amazing time spent with friends over various rounds of a game, seeing the world we created evolve and change each time, laughing with each other at the story, events, and the gameplay itself, and I’d absolutely do it again if I had the chance. Despite the pricetag, I’d highly consider playing another copy of Clank Legacy if I was given the chance. Maybe with new people, maybe as a duo with my partner, but each time I would play this game, I know I’d have an unforgettable experience with it, and that’s all I can really ask for when it comes to spending time with other people. Complex mechanics and game elements are fun, but the real joy of Clank Legacy was the time I got to spend with 3 other people, especially in an extremely uncertain time, with an uncertain future. For that, I’m grateful for Clank Legacy, and I highly suggest you check it out if you get a chance to do so yourself.